Is it possible for a bat to compete in a bird competition? The judgment is out for the Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau Bird of the Year competition in New Zealand, as a new entry for 2021 has ruffled a few feathers. Thousands of animal competitions take place each year, some serious, some not so much. Fat Bear Week in the United States and New Zealand’s Bird of the Year competition are two examples of events that fall into both categories serving as a chance to celebrate some of the world’s most fascinating creatures while also raising awareness about their plight and how we can assist.
While the healthy rivalry is promoted in the name of good humor, we as a species love to get worked up, and it appears that this habit has caused some consternation among New Zealand’s bird competition aficionados since a new competitor has been added to the lineup for 2021. The pekapeka-tou-roa (Chalinolobus tuberculatus), a species unique to New Zealand, is the “offending” entry.
While the flying mammal is unmistakably not a bird, it has several characteristics with many of the contest’s regular contestants. The pekapeka-tou-roa, like many of New Zealand’s native flying species, is critically endangered. They used to be ubiquitous across the country, but now there are so few that specialists do not even know how many there are. They may undoubtedly benefit from having their story publicized, as habitat loss and invasive predators threaten them.
In terms of the reported uproar, Bird of the Year would not be the yearly bird show we have all grown to know and love without a smidgeon of controversy. Slander campaigns, voter fraud, and even international intervention have all been accused in previous years. Winning the competition would be a drop in the bucket for Pekapeka-tou-roa.
Therefore, you still have a problem with a bat competing in a bird contest. Peter Wills, the campaign manager, had a lot to say. “Pekapeka-tou-roa is ready to step up to the plate after winning Bat of the Year too many times to count,” he boasted on the pekapeka-tou-profile roa’s page on the Bird of the Year website.
“In this competition, pekapeka are more bird-like than want to birds. Can any of our flagship species fly? This may ruffle some feathers, but can any of our flagship species fly? Pekapeka has earned the title of man. We believe in the under bird in New Zealand. We have faith in the tiniest of flies. We think that your background should not decide your future. It is up to you, Pekapeka-tou-roa, to rise up and expand our understanding of manu. “Koia nei te houanga o pekapeka-tou-roa!” says the narrator.